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Chase Liquid Prepaid Debit Card Review: Great Online, Short on Cash Locations

March 14, 2016 Banking, Prepaid Debit Cards
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The Chase Liquid prepaid debit card offers convenient ways of managing your money, with a strong suite of online and mobile banking features. It also has reasonable fees and above-average fraud protections. But if you rely on reloading your prepaid card at convenience stores or non-Chase ATMs, you’ll encounter some of the card’s limitations.

Overview

Prepaid debit cards have become popular budgeting tools and replacements for checking accounts. Since they often don’t have overdraft fees or minimum balance requirements, they work well for people who need an inexpensive way to save and spend money.

The Chase Liquid card stands out for its extensive access to online and mobile banking services as well as its big branch and ATM networks located in 25 states. Chase’s state-of-the-art mobile app and website provide a number of convenient and free services, from checking balances to sending money to non-Chase accounts. Chase Liquid works wherever Visa is accepted, but there are some situations, like paying for rentals, where you can’t use the card.

But if you rely on convenience stores for reloading or don’t live near a Chase ATM or branch, you might be hard-pressed to load cash or checks onto your card. Plus, there’s a $4.95 monthly fee that’s not easy to waive.

» COMPARE: NerdWallet’s best prepaid debit cards

Feature or feeDescription
Minimum opening load$25
Monthly service fee$4.95

Waived when linked to some high-end Chase checking accounts
Card activation
Purchases
Chase ATM use
Reloads
Bill pay
Transfers to non-Chase accounts
Declined transactions
$0
Free ATM network15,500+ ATMs (11,500+ accept deposits)
Out-of-network ATM$2.50
Pros
  • Few costs beyond monthly fee.

  • Access to a free ATM network.

  • Free and robust online and mobile services, including free bill pay, text alerts and online transfers.
Cons
  • Must link high-end Chase checking to waive the monthly fee.

  • Potential credit check.

  • No option for linked subaccounts.

  • Must open card at a Chase branch; they're not available in every state.

Fees

The only way to avoid the card’s $4.95 monthly service fee is to link it to a premier or other high-end Chase checking account. The yearly cost of $59.40 isn’t the worst among prepaid cards: Metabank’s AccountNow Gold Visa Prepaid Card, for example, charges $9.95 per month, or $119.40 per year. But you can also find cards with easier ways to waive the monthly fee, like the Regions Now Card, which drops its fee if you have qualifying direct deposits. Others don’t have a fee at all, like the American Express Bluebird.

The Chase Liquid charges a $2.50 fee for using non-Chase ATMs, but it doesn’t charge for most of its other services. There are no fees to open the card or for purchases, Chase ATM use, reloading money, bill pay, transfers to non-Chase accounts or declined transactions. The card doesn’t have overdraft fees: If you try to pay for something without having enough money on your card, your transaction will typically get declined.

Reload options

This card covers all the bases for reloading money, including:

  • Direct deposits for paychecks or government payments.
  • Chase QuickDeposit, a mobile check deposit feature on its app.
  • Online transfers.
  • 5,400+ Chase branches.
  • Chase ATMs that accept deposits.

ATM network

Like other Chase customers, Liquid cardholders have access to the bank’s network of more than 15,500 ATMs across the nation. More than 11,500 accept deposits. Not every prepaid card issuer has an ATM network that handles deposits.

Transaction and reload limits

  • ATM withdrawals: You can withdraw up to $500 daily.
  • Purchases: The maximum daily spending limit is $3,000.
  • Cash reloads: You can put up to $4,000 in cash onto the card monthly, or up to $48,000 per year.
  • Mobile check deposits: For any eligible Chase account, the general limit is $2,000 per day and $5,000 per month.
  • Other reloads: Direct deposits, check deposits at an ATM or branch and transfers from Chase checking are unlimited.

Other limits

Prepaid debit cards don’t offer all the features regular checking accounts generally do. In the case of Chase Liquid, cardholders can’t write checks, make wire transfers or pay for rentals, such as for cars or furniture.

» MORE: Read our Chase bank review

Where it excels

  • Many free services and transactions: As mentioned above, Chase Liquid lets you make purchases, use Chase ATMs and reload money for free. You can also get customer service support at no cost, which isn’t a given for prepaid cards.
  • Many reload options: From ATM deposits to online transfers, you can put money on the card in various ways.
  • Strong online and mobile features: Chase’s website and mobile app let you check your balance and purchase history, sign up for text alerts, deposit checks, pay bills with Online Bill Pay, and transfer money to people with Chase QuickPay. For that last feature, you just need someone’s email address or phone number to send money.
  • Strong protections: Chase holds the money on a Liquid card in a bank account, so those funds are federally insured. This means that if the bank fails, you can still recover your money. Chase Liquid cards also have zero liability protection, so any unauthorized purchases get reimbursed. Cards have EMV chips to make your in-store purchases more secure.

Where it falls short

  • Monthly fee not easy to waive: Some prepaid issuers waive this fee for direct deposits of a certain amount or other requirements, but for the Chase Liquid, there’s only one way: You must have a high-end Chase checking account.
  • Inconvenient opening requirements: You must visit a Chase branch to get this card. Registering online is not an option. You must also load $25 initially, which is the same amount for opening a basic Chase checking account.
  • Potential credit check: Unlike many nonbank prepaid providers, Chase might do a credit check as you apply for the card, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved.
  • Limited locations for cash reloads: You must reload cash at a Chase ATM or branch; only 25 states have them. Other prepaid card providers like U.S. Bank take advantage of a shared ATM network, such as MoneyPass and Allpoint, with a bigger national reach than Chase. Other issuers like American Express let cardholders reload cash at retailers like Wal-Mart and CVS, which Chase doesn’t do.
  • No subaccounts: You can get up to three free Chase Liquid cards with one account, but they can’t be linked. This means you can’t have “subaccounts” for family members tied to one master account, which is helpful if you want to monitor balances, give a child an allowance or send money to relatives. You can still transfer between Chase Liquid accounts for free, but cardholders can’t be under 18 years old.

» MORE: What you should know about prepaid debit cards

The Liquid card is great if you make a lot of online transfers and payments and can take advantage of Chase’s network. But if you don’t have a Chase checking account that waives the monthly fee or don’t want to rely on Chase locations for cash reloads, there are cheaper and more convenient prepaid cards out there.

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.

This post was updated. It was originally published July 11, 2012.

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